A collage of photographs from the Integrate 2018 event with a blue overlay effect

Integrate 2018 has now come and gone; however, a lot of good information about the “BizTalk in the Cloud” journey came from this event. Following is a brief recap.

In the beginning – back in 2009

The buzz around “BizTalk in the Cloud” started, and anticipation was building for months leading up to the much-anticipated grand unveiling of BizTalk in the Cloud at Microsoft’s Redmond campus.

I remember joining a stellar group of fellow BizTalk Virtual Technical Specialists (VTSs) and MVPs in a small, packed conference room. We watched in anticipation as Clemens Vasters, Principal Architect, walked into the room. What Clemens announced that day, however, was essentially Azure Service Bus , a wonderful technology; but, focused exclusively on messaging, which is a small part of the BizTalk integration stack. That was it.

There was no mention of orchestration engines or transformation or rules or anything of the sort. It was disappointing; however, it was also understandable as you could not rebuild BizTalk in the Cloud overnight. No roadmap was laid out for much beyond Azure Service Bus. For the next few years, BizTalk in the Cloud meant deploying Azure Virtual Machines with SQL Server and BizTalk Server installed on them.

Jump ahead to 2015 to MABS or WABS

The buzz around BizTalk in the Cloud was back. We were skeptical and feared we might be presented with a new FTP adapter packaged as BizTalk in the Cloud. But we were informed that this time it was the real thing. The package would include workflow, transformation, and messaging. In other words, the whole enchilada. Anticipation was high, and we were all excited.

What we got was the ill-named Microsoft Azure BizTalk Services (MABS) aka Windows Azure BizTalk Services (WABS). I remember asking one of my fellow TwoConnectors to please start creating some demo apps as soon as it was released.

One of the first demos I wanted to see involved a Request/Response scenario. We soon learned, however, that MABS did not support Request/Response flows, and there were no plans to incorporate it. What? It was downhill from there. We all had our laughs with the acronyms for this thing, but I remember thinking to myself in the immortal words of Roger Daltrey, no doubt penned by Pete Townshend, that I wasn’t going to bother anymore, no sir, “We won’t get fooled again.”

Introducing Logic Apps

A selfie from the Integrate 2018, featuring Javier Mariscal and John Stephens
A great selfie at integrate 2018

So, having been twice fooled when Logic Apps was first announced, I didn’t bother. I think my reply to the Microsofties that were then touting its abilities was something like, “That’s nice, please call me when it works.” And then I moved on. But it wasn’t long before it became clear the Logic Apps were not to be ignored. Just maybe, it was for real this time. Once again, I asked one of my fellow TwoConnectors, Jairo Garcia, to start on demos, beginning with a Request/Response scenario. Done.

I asked to see a demo using my existing BizTalk maps. Done. I asked for Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). Done! I asked for true workflow, messaging, and event flows. Done. Done. And Done! I was in my office reviewing one of the last Logic Apps demos with Jairo, and I remember jumping up for joy, with actual tears in my eyes. Yes, I’m aware of the level of geekiness one has reached to cry over this sort of thing. But there it was, in front of my very eyes.

It was, dare I say it, BizTalk in the Cloud! Certainly, not all the pieces were there on that day, which was shortly before Logic Apps went GA, but together with Service Bus, Event Grid, API Management, and everything else, we had a plan, a vision, a roadmap, and we had working code.

Introducing Azure Integration Services (AIS)

The BizTalk360 team opening Integrate 2018
The BizTalk360 team opening Integrate 2018

Microsoft had built BizTalk in the Cloud piece by piece, and on June 5, 2018, at Integrate 2018 in London, England, John Fancey gave it a name, Azure Integration Services.

For now, there is no real code associated with AIS. It is a set of guidelines and best practices that describe how you can bring together API Management, Workflow through Logic Apps, Messaging through ServiceBus, Eventing through Event Grid, and a long and growing list of connectors to create Microsoft integration solutions in the cloud.

John’s excellent team will be building reference applications and demos that will start to define AIS. This time, the marketing name is defined by the pieces it already comprises. This time, the services do exist, and they work fantastically well. At TwoConnect, we have been successfully implementing them for several months.

BizTalk’s days limited

One more thing John made clear is that AIS will be made available everywhere, not just the cloud. It’s headed to your premises by way of Azure Stack or any other means possible. This will not happen quickly. For the near future, Microsoft’s answer to on-premises enterprise integration remains my old friend and yours, Microsoft BizTalk Server. Still, it is abundantly clear that BizTalk’s days are limited, and soon integration on-premises will be accomplished in the cloud. That’s inevitable.

Meet your new boss. Long live BizTalk!!!

And so, my fellow Microsoft integrators, my fellow BizTalkers, meet your new boss, Azure Integration Services, who just happens to be the same as your old boss. And no matter what, let’s agree to never forget BizTalk and its world of functoids, receive locations, orchestrations, maps, business rules engines, and BAM portals. It’ll still be around for a while. We’ll always carry with us the integration lessons that it taught us. So, join me, and Roger, Pete, John, and Keith in a loud salute to honor our friend.